International education caters to a microcosm of the world every day in every corner of the globe. Guided by principles of universal human values, equity, inclusion, global thinking, and world citizenship, NESA and other international schools can be found in the forefront of innovation in education and social change. Bringing together the foundations of international education with the opportunity to learn from inspiring mentors and leaders is one of the most effective ways to prepare youth to shape their world with 21st century skills, intellect, principles, optimism and prosocial attitudes. It also enables youth to emulate courageous, collective, and ethical leadership practices from individuals who have succeeded in rebuilding community despite the effects of economic crisis’, war and social injustice. It is these lessons from international education that prompted me and my colleagues to develop, EIMAI-Center for Emerging Young Leaders & EIMAI NEOS, an American and Greek non-profit organization aimed at providing services and opportunities for youth in Greece to become compassionate, informed and engaged citizen leaders.
EIMAI is the Greek word for “I am.” Our philosophy is that the character trait we put after “I am” defines who we are, shapes our reality but also the state of the world. As an international school teacher, counselor and therapist for the last twelve years, engaging students in service projects in the global, urban and rural communities of Greece, I was convinced that civic engagement was a powerful antidote to political, economic and social unrest, environmental apathy and intercultural mis-understanding. By providing youth in Greece with opportunities to impact community challenges, they could clarify their own values and develop an ethic of servant leadership to shape their future world, based on humanistic ideals free of the labels and misconceptions that prevent their heart and mind from flourishing.
The second goal of EIMAI—was to identify the most committed Educators, Mentors and Citizen Leaders to inspire youth and facilitate community, collaboration, capacity building and courage to transform social apathy to civic responsibility. Only the most profound and accomplished global citizen leaders could fulfill that role—Nobel Laureates of Peace. This fall, EIMAI brings to Greece the award- winning PeaceJam Program for schools! The PeaceJam curriculum has been nominated for the Noble prize eight times. It is a civic literacy program, designed for children ages 5-25, that addresses the most pressing global issues of our times and promotes empathy, intercultural literacy and connectedness through the wisdom and experience of Nobel Peace Laureates such as the Dalai Llama, Desmond Tutu, Jody Williams, Betty McGuire, Shirin Ebadi, Leymah Gbowee, Aung San Suu Kyi, Oscar Arias and others. Member schools come together during video conferencing and face to face workshops with the Nobel Laureates to create dialogue, celebrate the impact of youth service projects and inspire social change by sharing ethical and collective leadership practices. These projects become part of the “One Billion Acts of Peace Campaign” inspired by PeaceJam youth around the world! (See www.peacejam.org)
The first group of students from Greece attended the UK Peace Jam Conference with Jody Williams, and the World Summit of Nobel Laureates in Rome where the closing remarks were translated for the first time in Greek by our students. These students went on to promote the civic responsibility project called, “Planting The Seeds of Goods” to nearly 600 students in Athens and villages of the province of Hleia. Students purchased wheelchairs for KEPEP Lehenon an institution for cognitively and physically impaired young adults. This month in New York, EIMAI youth are being awarded in a ceremony by the Loukoumi Make a Difference Foundation for raising awareness for civic responsibility in Greece.
The vision of EIMAI is to work with the most passionate and committed teachers, youth mentors and leaders to raise the intellectual social consciousness of every youth and fill city streets with young citizen leaders building and sustaining community and social harmony with ethos.
Ellen Froustis (Vriniotis) was the recipient of two NESA Civic Responsibility Awards for KEPEP LEHENON Children’s Hospital (2007) and The Village Project (2008) on behalf of ACS Athens. For information about Peace Jam Greece, schools can contact: firstname.lastname@example.org.